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Bell, city, United States


city (1990 pop. 34,365), Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1927. It is chiefly residential, with printing, metal fabrication, and the manufacture of industrial machinery and lighting fixtures.

bell, musical instrument


in music, a percussion instrument consisting of a hollow metal vessel, often cup-shaped with an outward-flaring rim, damped at one end and set into vibration by a blow from a clapper within or from a hammer without.

A portable set of bells, usually not more than 15 in number, tuned to the intervals of the major scale, is known as a chime and were first used by the ancient Chinese. A carillon is a larger stationary set with chromatic intervals and as many as 70 bells, which are played from a keyboard. Harmonies and effects of shading, not possible on a chime, are part of the art of carillon playing—an art for which there is a school in Belgium. The bells of a carillon must be tuned with more accuracy than those of a chime; the best modern craftsmen can tune the fundamental (known as the hum note), the octave (known as the strike note), the twelfth, and the fifteenth with perfect accuracy.

An interesting and unexplained illusion manifest in bells is their apparent pitch (strike note): the pitch the observer hears can often be scientifically proved to be different from any of the pitches produced by the bell. Bells have been known in all metal-using cultures and civilizations and have been used in connection with all major religions except Islam. Many legends and traditions are associated with bells, which have been used for signaling, in dancing, and as protective charms. Apparently originating in Asia, in early times bells were employed for religious purposes and were used in Christianity by the 6th cent. Early bells were blessed with holy water, in the belief that dedication to Christian service gave power to ward off lightning.

Sets of bells tuned to a musical scale and called cymbala were used in the Middle Ages for musical instruction and to accompany chant in churches. In the 13th cent., tower bells were attached to clocklike mechanisms to strike the hours. The carillon developed out of the Belgian voorslag of the 15th cent., a set of bells attached to a large tower clock that played a tune before striking the hour. In the Low Countries, where the making and playing of carillons centered, the principal cities vied over the size and complexity of their instruments. A peak in European carillon making was reached in the work of the brothers Frans (1609–67) and Pieter (1619–80) Hemony of Amsterdam. The carillonneur's art flourished until the 18th cent., declining during the French Revolution, when many carillons were melted to make armaments.

Toward the end of the 19th cent., English bellmakers rediscovered the secrets of tuning that had been used by the 17th-century Dutch and Flemish craftsmen. This, with improvements in methods of striking, in placement of the bells, and in action of the keyboard, has made 20th-century carillons the finest in existence. Active in a renaissance of carillon music was Jef Denijn (1862–1941), carillonneur of Mechlin. Since World War I many carillons have been installed in the United States; outstanding is that of the Riverside Church, New York (1930), whose 20.5-ton bourdon bell is the largest ever cast in England. The largest bell in the world was the Great Bell of Moscow; cast in 1733–35, it was broken in a fire in 1737.


See P. D. Peery, Chimes and Electric Carillons (1948); W. G. Wilson, Change Ringing (1965); S. N. Coleman, Bells (1928, repr. 1971); H. R. Jones, About Bells and Bell Ringing (1986); R. Johnston et al., An Atlas of Bells (1990).


The body of a Corinthian capital or a Composite capital without the foliage.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

For thousands of years bells have been instruments of ritual and magic. The ringing of bells was thought to drive away evil spirits, hence the wearing of bells around the necks of cattle and other domestic animals to keep them free of disease and clear of malicious spirits. In medieval Europe, bells were rung during plagues in the belief that the sound would drive away the pestilence and any evil emanations. Doctors would even prescribe the ringing of bells when a patient was sick. The ringing of a bell is part of the exorcism ritual and the rite of excommunication (see Bell, Book and Candle). In Italy, bells are placed around the necks of cattle and horses to protect them from the evil eye; in China, they are rung to bring rain; in Haiti, a small silver bell hangs from the handle of the asson, the Voodoo priest's ritual tool. In Wicca, a bell is frequently rung at the beginning and end of rituals and within certain rites.

The outer shell of the bell is equated with the female element and the inner clapper with the male. Together, then, there is union. The vibrations created by the ringing of the bell are thought to raise spiritual power and increase magical energy. Bells are rung for fertility, for celebration, and for magical workings.

A common belief in the Middle Ages was that the sound of church bells ringing was abhorrent to witches and would cause them to fall from their broomsticks while they rode across the sky to the sabbat. Some old church bells are inscribed with the words fulgura frango, dissipo ventos meaning "lightning and thunder, I break asunder." It was thought that the ringing of church bells would overpower the evil spirits who caused storms and thereby temper the weather. Many church bells were dedicated to specific saints and were blessed in great ceremony.

The practice of hanging bells from clothing is found worldwide and was originally done for protection from evil spirits. Bells have been hung from the clothing of the sick and those afraid of being possessed or cursed. Medicine is sometimes drunk from a bell, in the belief that the sacred "cup" will give added potency to the potion.

In necromantic rituals, bells are used to help raise the dead and return their spirits to this earthly realm so that they might be interrogated. The practice of hanging a small bell on the door of a shop was not originally to tell the shopkeeper if anyone had entered, but instead to ensure that no evil spirits came inside.

The oldest bell in the world was found near Babylon and is believed to be over three thousand years old. The Roman emperor Gaius Octavianus (63 BCE-14 CE), who later became the first Emperor Augustus, hung a large bell from the Temple of Jupiter. In Athens the priests of Cybele used handbells in their rites, while in Sparta women walked the streets ringing small bells when a king died. Small bells made of copper and dating to the pre-Inca era have been found in ancient Peruvian tombs.

The sixth century saw the first use of church bells, although they were not introduced into western churches until the eighth century. They were termed seings or signa, and were not rung but simply struck with a wooden or metal hammer. (From this practice came the word toc-seing or tocsin applied to the peals of the Middle Ages.)

Witches believe that there is power in the vibrations caused by the ringing of a bell (or the sounding of a "singing bowl" or shaking of a sistrum, or ritual rattle). Together with the smoke of incense, the ringing of bells attunes a magic circle and brings great harmony.



a signaling instrument, in the shape of a hollow pear that has been cut off at the bottom; a clapper is suspended inside. Bells are made of bronze alloys. A sound of a certain pitch is produced by swinging either the bell itself or the clapper. Since ancient times the bell has been used to summon the population (the assembly bell), to sound an alert, or to assemble the troops (the tocsin). Since the middle of the ninth century, the ringing of bells has been an integral element of church rites in Russia. Special bell towers and belfries were built. In Europe comparatively large bells were first cast sometime between the fourth and sixth centuries. The largest bells ever cast were manufactured in Russia—for example, the Tsar’s Bell in the Moscow Kremlin.


Olovianishnikov, N. I. Istoriia kolokolov i kolokololiteinoe delo, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1912.
Pukhnachev, Iu. “Glagol vremen, metalla zvon. . . .” Nauka i zhizn’, 1972, no. 8.

What does it mean when you dream about a bell?

Something calling for attention. Perhaps a warning bell or an alarm. Bells are also sounded at beginnings and endings. In Western culture, bells are associated with weddings (wedding bells) and freedom (the liberty bell). Also, bellwethers influence or presage the future.


A hollow metallic cylinder closed at one end and flared at the other; it is used as a fixed-pitch musical instrument or signaling device and is set vibrating by a clapper or tongue which strikes the lip.
A conical device that seals the top of a blast furnace.


bell, 1
bell, 1
1. The body of a Corinthian capital or a Composite capital, with the foliage removed; also called a vase or basket.
2. The portion of a pipe which is enlarged to receive the end of another pipe of the same diameter for the purpose of making a joint; also called a hub.


passing bell; rung to indicate demise. [Christian Tradition: Jobes, 198]
See: Death


1. a hollow, usually metal, cup-shaped instrument that emits a musical ringing sound when struck, often by a clapper hanging inside it
2. an electrical device that rings or buzzes as a signal
3. the bowl-shaped termination of the tube of certain musical wind instruments, such as the trumpet or oboe
4. any musical percussion instrument emitting a ringing tone, such as a glockenspiel, one of a set of hand bells, etc
5. Nautical a signal rung on a ship's bell to count the number of half-hour intervals during each of six four-hour watches reckoned from midnight. Thus, one bell may signify 12.30, 4.30, or 8.30 am or pm
6. See diving bell
7. Biology a structure resembling a bell in shape, such as the corolla of certain flowers or the body of a jellyfish
8. bell, book, and candle instruments used formerly in excommunications and other ecclesiastical acts


a bellowing or baying cry, esp that of a hound or a male deer in rut


1. Acton, Currer , and Ellis. pen names of the sisters Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë
2. Alexander Graham. 1847--1922, US scientist, born in Scotland, who invented the telephone (1876)
3. Sir Francis Henry Dillon. 1851--1936, New Zealand statesman; prime minister of New Zealand (1925)
4. Gertrude (Margaret Lowthian). 1868--1926, British traveller, writer, and diplomat; secretary to the British High Commissioner in Baghdad (1917--26)
5. Joshua. born 1967, US violinist
6. (Susan) Jocelyn, married name Jocelyn Burnell, born 1943, British radio astronomer, who discovered the first pulsar
7. Vanessa, original name Vanessa Stephen. 1879--1961, British painter; a member of the Bloomsbury group, sister of Virginia Woolf and wife of the art critic Clive Bell (1881--1964)


An early system on the IBM 650 and Datatron 200 series.

Versions: BELL L2, BELL L3.

[Listed in CACM 2(5):16 (May 1959)].


Bell Telephone or Bell Laboratories.


ASCII 7, ASCII mnemonic "BEL", the character code which prodces a standard audibile warning from the computer or terminal. In the teletype days it really was a bell, since the advent of the VDU it is more likely to be a sound sample (e.g. the sound of a bell) played through a loudspeaker.

Also called "G-bell", because it is typed as Control-G.

The term "beep" is preferred among some microcomputer hobbyists.

Compare feep, visible bell.